On the comeback from Cancún to Mi Taqueria

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Note to self: Don’t go in search of a new stand-out restaurant 36 hours after returning from a week in the cuisine’s country of origin.

Standing in a long customs line at the Atlanta airport on Feb. 25, I had no choice but to listen to the two women in front of me talking about where they wanted to eat dinner when they finally escaped the maze of people waiting at the checkpoint. My girlfriend and I were returning from a week relaxing just outside of Cancun, as were many of the passengers around us, and one of the women was proclaiming her desire to just keep eating Mexican food.

We didn’t feel the same — I happily settled for McDonald’s chicken nuggets and fries, though we’d eaten plenty of Americanized and non-Mexican fare while hanging out along the coastline. But the next night I caught myself suggesting San Luis for dinner, and by Monday I missed the fish and al pastor tacos, the mole chicken and almost longed for the overly dry tamale I’d eaten one night abroad.

Mi Taqueria, a Mexican sit-down spot in a rather post-industrial portion of southwest High Point, had been on my list for a while, and seemed as good a place as any to feed the beast.

A row of forlorn booths lines one wall of the restaurant, while a long bar dominates the center of the space and a hand-painted map of Mexico adorns the opposite wall. There’s a little more vibrancy here than much of the properties in view of the small parking lot in front, but not much so around mid-afternoon. Yet the staff is friendly and attentive, and the price is right up until the lunch specials expire at 4 p.m.

This area of High Point is sprinkled with taquerias, but the restaurant stands far enough from a smattering on Main Street south of downtown to require some wheels. In that sense and others, Mi Taqueria is a classic example of a neighborhood joint — functional, serviceable and perfectly good, but nothing extraordinary.

Unlike the nearby Taco Toro, Mi Taqueria isn’t tacked onto a market. But depending on what you’re looking for, it provides a better draw in the bar, which could be an ideal locale to casually knock back a few Pacificos, Modelos or mixed drinks with friends while biting into a flight of tacos.

Plenty of other Mexican restaurants in the Triad have full-service bars, of course. That’s one of the great things about the local food scene here — when it comes to Mexican, there are enough options that you don’t have to travel far to find quality. That also means that Mi Taqueria is — and will no doubt remain — a local hub, though it could still be worth the trek depending on where you’re coming from in High Point.

That’s because Mi Taqueria is the kind of place where, although Valencia is already on the table, your server will bring out a bucket with five hot sauce options, all of which seem to be made in house and all of which provide textured variety in choice.

My al pastor taco arrived with a heap of cilantro thrust on top of chopped white onion and with radish rounds on the side. A lime wedge would’ve been a nice touch, but I eagerly squirted a line of red sauce on the double-wrapped taco after removing the extra tortilla wrapping.

My large chicken tostada — the other half of my $6 lunch special — arrived slathered in a bean base and cojita-style cheese beneath lettuce, shredded chicken, and pieces of tomato and avocado. I favored it to my taco, appreciating the crunch of the flat base and the taste of the chicken, but I have to admit it made me miss the version I used to order at the now-closed Mexico restaurant just a block from my apartment. A banner out front advertises pupusas, a heavy Salvadoran dish that I knew wouldn’t leave space in my stomach to try anything else if I went for it, though I wanted to see how they stack up. It may be one of the more rare offerings here, though you can find huaraches, deep-fried tacos and a soup with squid, octopus, mussels, crab meat, shrimp and tilapia that sounds thoroughly overwhelming.

In one respect, Mi Taqueria obliterated the competition — I don’t think I’ve ever received my food faster from a sit-down spot.

If your food is good, fast as hell and also cheap, it’s easy to understand the appeal. Nevermind the divey atmosphere or the fact that the meals might not be world-class — it’s hard to argue with what Mi Taqueria offers.

I’ve never been to a Mexican restaurant around here where some Spanish proficiency would be a prerequisite to ordering, but I’ve found myself in more than a few places where it proved helpful. There’s no language barrier here for English-only speakers though, something that also distinguishes Mi Taqueria from a few other options around.

Fresh off a trip to Mexico, my subconscious expectations might’ve been a little too high. Mi Taqueria should be compared to the local alternatives instead, and while it isn’t the belle of the ball, there’s more than enough to satisfy local comers here.

Visit Mi Taqueria at 800 W. Green Drive (HP) or find it on Facebook.